Nanette Burstein, whose “documentary” American Teen proved a nice warm-up for the romantic-comedy hijinks here, works from a script by Geoff LaTulippe that tries hard to inject new life into a long-listless genre. The surprise is that it often succeeds, delivering unique character details (its use of pop culture is relatively keen) and a central duo that seems naturally at ease. Even the abrupt, if predictable, ending is a breath of subversive genre air.
The simple plot kick-starts when Erin (Barrymore) meets Garrett (Long), a major-label record company scout, during a six-week summer internship as a newspaper reporter in New York City.
They bond easily —they both working in dying industries, we're reminded — and its not long before their no-strings-attached relationship becomes serious. Ah, but of course, a monkey wrench is thrown into the mix: Their burgeoning love affair is threatened when Erin gets a full-time gig across the country at the San Francisco Chronicle.
Going the Distance's attempts to diagnosis contemporary gender/relationship issues are not exactly incisive, and its supporting characters fall securely within the genre's well-established tropes: Garrett's buddies (Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day) are crusty, crude singles who doubt the long-distance thing can work; Erin's protective older sister (Christina Applegate) thinks she deserves better.
Yet Barrymore and Long's interactions and dialogue are laced with an uncommon intimacy. It's as if Burstein was let in on the duo's real-life on-again/off-again romance, which gives Going the Distance an added layer of resonance. Grade: B-
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